The title of this blog post may be a bit deceiving... So, let me start by saying that I have spent much of my career working with volunteers. It has truly been my favorite part about working in the nonprofit sector. My first 'real' job was as a volunteer coordinator, managing over 100 passionate volunteers. Of those volunteers, I want to say that less than 1% of these dedicated volunteers have been described as "difficult." But, those difficult volunteers can cause some serious mayhem. That is why I wanted to use this blog post to briefly touch on my experiences on how to best deal with that 1% of difficult volunteers.
For starters, you cannot ignore a difficult volunteer. Difficult volunteers can create division and lower morale, causing people to become frustrated and even leave your organization. To avoid these disastrous scenarios, I would like to present three ways to handle a problematic volunteer:
Define the problem and separate the person from the problem. Interview employees and volunteers that are familiar with the situation. Do not engage in the gossip of any kind.
Have a face-to-face conversation with the problematic volunteer. Depending on the situation, it may be essential to have someone with you. Over the past year, I have learned first-hand how important it is to converse with someone rather than send out a blanket policy memo.
Solidify a follow-up plan. A follow-up plan includes checking on the person, as they may have verbalized a personal issue in your face-to-face conversation. A follow-up plan should also include an evaluation of progress. It is essential to agree on evaluation criteria to evaluate growth best.
Like all employees, volunteers must have clear roles and a complete understanding of their duties and responsibilities. Consistent and regular training is required for volunteers, as they do not need you for a paycheck. They do not have to be there, and working with volunteers should be considered a privilege. Do you have a specific question about a problematic volunteer?
Reach out to me through the 'Contact' section of this website.